SPET - Road to Zero Waste

An item on next week’s SPET ballot calls for $2.5 million in “Road to Zero Waste” infrastructure improvements, including a mechanized sorting system at the recycling center.

A $2.5 million ballot measure for recycling infrastructure would help Teton County achieve its goal of diverting 60% of waste by 2030, Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling Superintendent Brenda Ashworth said.

“We’ve made the commitment to go to zero waste,” she said. “The next step is building the infrastructure that will allow us to do that.”

The largest chunk of the funding, $1.4 million, would pay for a sorting system for the recycling center.

Everything recycled in bins throughout town is now sorted by hand. The new system would do an initial mechanical sort, which could mean less sorting for the consumer at the drop-off stations, such as allowing tin cans and aluminum to be mingled in a single bin.

“It will allow less sorting and increase the public convenience, and then it will also decrease the number of labor hours we use to sort,” Ashworth said.

The new mechanical system would improve health and safety for workers, Ashworth said.

“Right now, our crew bends over a belt as they are sorting material,” she said. “This sort system will allow them to be upright.”

Another $350,000 would buy a sorting system for food waste as part of a commercial composting pilot program that’s expected to debut in 2020.

“It will allow us to have a higher- quality finished product,” Ashworth said.

Food composting is part of the county’s waste diversion goals, with the goal of encouraging residential food composting.

The upgrades also include installing a $350,000 truck scale to weigh recycled loads and increase efficiency. Right now, when trucks come in to buy Teton County’s recycled commodities, they’re required to tarp their loads, then drive to the Trash Transfer Station down the highway to be weighed. If the weight isn’t right, trucks must return to the Recycling Center, adjust the load and return to be weighed again.

The remaining $400,000 would buy covered bins — available for public use 24/7 — for storing recylables at the center. At the existing, uncovered bins, paper gets wet and materials blow around in stormy weather, Ashworth said.

“The improvements to the infrastructure here will allow us to be more efficient and collect the material that we need in order to divert it from the landfill,” Ashworth said.

Without SPET funds, Ashworth said it would take substantially longer for the Recycling Center to complete the projects, possibly delaying the community’s ability to reach the 60% waste diversion goal. The Recycling Center is reaching the maximum of what the facility can process, she said.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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